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Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Category Archives: Tree growing advice

Relevant points for the garden orchard in the month of July

This is the best time of the year to carry out summer pruning on plums, pears, cherries and peaches. Watch a video
Check that nets protecting the various fruit crops are still bird proof. Watch a video
Check pheromone traps for apple sawfly and plum sawfly. Replace the lure if necessary. Watch a video
Prepare the ground for planting new fruit trees in the autumn/winter period.
Thin fruits if their density on the tree is too high. Watch a video
Cut out tree canker and paint the wounds to stop re-infection. Watch a video
Spray to prevent bitter pit in apples.

Video: May – How to thin apples by hand

Apples are just about the last fruit to blossom. The first to blossom are apricot, nectarines and peaches, followed by plums, then cherry, and finally the apples. Considering apples, there are early and late varieties. At this time of year, late May, you will often find that the early apple varieties have set far too much fruit. For early varieties, late May is a good time for thinning fruit on apple trees.

How to thin apples by hand
Use a narrow-tipped cutter to remove some of the fruitlets so that they are better spaced. Leave the best-sized fruitlets. Cut just underneath the fruitlet, leaving the stalk. Always cut out the central fruitlet in a group, because this is the king fruit and it is misshapen. In this group, Dan reduces the initial 12 fruitlets to 5. There are still too many, but it is still early in the season, so it’s a good idea to thin the fruitlets down to this degree at the present time, late May. In July you can take another look at the tree and reduce the number of fruits – in a group of this type – down to 2 or 3.

Narration: Dan Neuteboom
Camera: John Paddy

Further information on the RealEnglishFruit website
https://realenglishfruit.co.uk/

Video. May: How to grow morello cherries

Dan shows us a morello cherry tree that has been planted on the north side of a building in a garden orchard. The fruit set is very good. In fact the morello cherry is the only fruit tree that does very well on the north side of a building. The morello sets best on one-year-old wood. Last year, Dan cut back the one-year-old wood to shorter lengths, from which this year new branches have grown, on which the fruit has now set. This tree has been trained in a fan shape, but the really important thing in ensuring good cropping is to cut it back in November.
Narration by Dan Neuteboom, camera John Paddy

Video. How to support fruit tree branches

In a previous video we saw a freshly-planted tree. This tree was tied out last year, and you can see the amount of regrowth that has taken place. The tree has set a lot of fruit, and so Dan has provided support by using strings tied to the top of the stakes and looped around the branches. It is a temporary arrangement that stabilizes the tree. Once the framework is fixed, and the branches hold their position naturally, at the end of the season it is a good idea to remove the strings to ensure that they don’t get enveloped by the growing branches. This tree gives a good idea of the shape that we need: drooping branches, strongly-developed framework branches, well furnished with new wood. With an apple tree it’s important to support branches to prevent breakage.

Narration by Dan Neuteboom, camera John Paddy

Video: An insect hotel and fruit tree pollination

Dan Neuteboom shows us an insect hotel. The problem with the pollination of early-flowering fruit trees, such as cherries, plums, greengages, apricots and peaches, is that often it is so cold, there are hardly any insects around. But when the sun does come out in those early months, it can quickly get very warm and the insects will come out. In this sort of insect hotel, which should be placed facing south, insects like hoverflies and lacewings can spend the winter. These are the insects that can help with pollination after just a few hours of sunshine. Dan shows us an open-centre greengage tree in which there is good air circulation. The basic requirements for good fruit set, in a location where there are other varieties all around, are there. The other important thing is that frost is a real danger with early-flowering fruit. The trees least at risk from spring frosts are apple trees. All the other trees flower earlier. There are various ways of avoiding the risk of frost and stopping the trees from getting hurt by frost. One technique is shown right here: the chickens keep the grass cropped right down, so that the sun can heat up the ground which can then radiate the heat back into the air at night, helping protect the trees from frost. Another useful technique is to use nets, ensuring that air circulation is not obstructed. Mulch also requires care. It is great for late-flowering fruits such as raspberries and apples, but if you put mulch around the trees early in the season, thinking particularly of frost-sensitive trees such as pears, peaches and apricots, you have to bear in mind that the mulch worsens the frost situation because it doesn’t allow the ground to absorb heat from the sun during the day. Lastly, the position of the trees should be considered when planting new trees. If you plant them in a valley where cold air can accumulate, this increases the risk of frost damage. In this case it can be useful to ensure that there is an opening in a hedge so that cold air can flow away.

Video: How to plant a hedgerow

In the countryside, hedges have a special role, providing protection for birds and small animals such as hedgehogs. They can be thought of as highways for fauna, connecting one coppice to the next. They are therefore important for biodiversity, and for making the countryside attractive not only to humans, but to all forms of life. Dan comments favourably on how his neighbour has planted a new hedge. This video was filmed in April. Preparation for the hedge began earlier: the farmer ploughed a ten-foot strip in February, cultivating it down to a depth of 8-10 inches. He then removed all the grass, and then started to plant the hedge in two rows, with species such as hawthorn, blackthorn, dogwood, maple, and others. He dedicated thought about how these new plants would be able to survive in conditions of drought, and so already by the beginning of March he had placed a protective layer of straw on the ground around the new plants. Each small tree has a guard and a small stake. In short, this is a super job, a great example of how to grow a new hedge in an arable environment, in such a way that it will become established quickly.

Video: Apricot tree frost damage protection

Apricot and peach trees flower quite early in the season, even in March or early April. At that time of year there are a lot of night frosts which could cause apricot tree frost damage compromising the crop. Dan presents Carol Wilson, who has constructed a neat solution to the need of protecting apricot tree blossoms when there are night frosts. This specimen is a Golden Glow apricot planted in February 2017, so it is now about two and a half years old. It has been planted against a south-facing wall, and it has been carefully trained, so that all the leaves have excellent exposure to light. When it was planted, Carol ensured that there were no tree roots at the site, and removed all grass in the immediate area. She improved the soil with chicken pellets put into the hole. She made a frame that provides protection from muntjac and roe deer. Putting the frame up also gave Carol the chance to install a rail at the top, a piece of plastic tubing, that holds some garden fleece, hemmed as if it were a curtain. So each night, Carol closes the curtains to provide protection, and it is so easy that she can do it anyway, even if she is not certain whether or not there will be a frost. Dan provides some indications on apricot tree care and how to continue the apricot espalier training pattern. The success of this tree is shown by the abundant fruit already present in the tree’s third year. Dan also comments on apricot pruning – it is important not to cut out the thin wood, because the fruits are found on the one-year-old wood. This also applies to peaches.

Video: How to obtain a soil analysis for fruit trees

If you are moving to a new garden, you will be faced with the question of whether the soil is suitable for growing good fruit trees. To find out the answer, a soil analysis is crucial. It is not expensive, and a soil analysis kit is available from the Royal Horticultural Society soil analysis lab at Wisley. The soil analysis procedure is not complicated: you send them an email, they will send you some containers in which to put some soil and ask you what you are thinking of growing, and within a fortnight, they will let you know whether the site is suitable in terms of fruit tree soil requirements. As trees are comparatively expensive, they can be thought of as a long-term investment, and so they deserve an initial examination of what will become their new home. One of the most important factors revealed by a soil analysis is the pH of the soil. Different plants have different preferences: for example, azaleas and rhododendrons prefer acid soils, with a pH of 4 or 5 (7 is neutral). Apple trees on the other hand prefer slightly acidic or neutral soils, so pH 6 to 7. When you receive the soil analysis report from the RHS, it will show the pH and it will also inform you of the soil’s suitability for what you want to grow and on amending new garden soil if necessary. The analysis will also tell you the type of soil, clay, loam, sand, or a mixture. It will give you the percentages of three substances that are very important for fruit trees, magnesium, potash and phosphate. The recommendations on fruit tree soil preparation are clear and straightforward, and if you follow their advice, the trees will do well. So if you are moving to a new house with a new garden, a soil analysis will help you enjoy tasty fruit that you have grown yourself. The RHS website is www.rhs.org.co.uk

Video: How to improve pollination on a cherry tree

A cherry tree in a garden may not set fruit for several reasons. One reason could be the lack of pollination – the transfer of pollen from one cherry variety to another that is essential for fruit set. If you have just the one cherry tree in your garden, you can compensate for this problem by cutting a branch from another cherry tree in blossom, putting it into a milk bottle with water, and placing the bottle at the centre of your tree. Bees will then visit the flowers both of the branch and the tree itself, and perform the cross-pollination needed to get a crop. It’s a simple but effective technique.

Video: Three fan-shaped pear trees in blossom

In a previous video, Dan Neuteboom explained that it is best not to prune pear trees until it is clear which buds are fruit buds, and so should be left on, and which are wood buds, and so can be pruned to control the size and vigour of the tree. That was late February-early March. We are now in the middle of April, and the results are evident. The three different pear varieties are all fan-trained and so use a minimal amount of space on the wall. The trees are facing south, pollination is good (because of the proximity of different varieties), temperatures are good, flowers are dominant, and so a very good fruit set can be expected. Some thinning may be necessary, and that will be the subject of another video.